For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 5: 10

 

Enemy is a strong word. I don’t know about you, but I am troubled by the idea that I was ever an enemy of God’s, for the concept of the Lord Almighty, the Lord of Hosts with His heavenly army waging war against me is terrifying. Yet, that is what everyone either is or has been. If we are not with Him, then we are truly and fully against Him. There is no middle or neutral ground in the contest of the spiritual. Still, God works tirelessly to win over every single person who opposes Him. Despite our rejection, disagreement, refusal to yield to Him, or other forms of rebellion, Christ’s sacrifice and the Father’s redemption of life from death are ever present offers held out to us for the taking. We may be enemies in fact, but God treats us as long-lost children who He seeks to bring back home by engaging with us with whatever means He discerns will accomplish our turning to Christ.

 

As we have come to know Christ, we are the recipients of grace. There is nothing that we receive from God that we earned or that we deserve to get. When we turn toward Christ and leave the camp of His enemies, we are not placed into some form of prisoner of war status or given a sentence to be served by being reeducated in a guarded facility. We are set free from the bondage of sin, and we are granted the freedom to walk all of the streets and to visit all of the halls of God’s Kingdom. The grace that we have received is total and absolute, we are unconditionally free and unconditionally loved. Christ wants us to do something in response to His love for us and with this grace that He pours out over us. The Lord desires for His people to live as purveyors of grace in our world. So, we may have enemies in this world. There are almost certainly people who cause us irritation, bring about disagreement, or who we encounter with open hostility.

 

These are all, without exception, people that God loves and that He has plans for. Each of these people is someone for whom Christ died and whose redemption is important to the Father. None of us has insider knowledge of how that other person’s life story will turn out. We are never given that information or provided any idea about their spiritual destination. This understanding and knowledge belong solely to God. What He does tell us is that, like us, these people who are enemies today are still loved and cared about by Christ. They are to be treated as if that were our own reality too. If God does not reject people out of hand, but rather came to earth, suffered, and died for each and every one of us, then we have no authority to hold attitudes of disdain and rejection of any of them. We are to love others and to pour out Christ’s infinite grace upon all. In fact, it might be true that Christ would instruct us to give an extra measure of that same grace that He provides to us to those who are particularly difficult for us to encounter. Just a thought.

 

A reflection on Dr. Timothy George’s thoughts at Wheaton Theology Conference 2018.